Muscat, the capital city of Oman has a subdued kind of beauty. Nothing is over the top or garish here. Orderliness and discipline, simplicity and elegance reflect in its people and the land. The city offers its visitors, aesthetic architecture to see and appreciate; scrumptious food to indulge in, and the friendly Omani hospitality to enjoy and cherish.
Oman’s much loved and respected Sultan created the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a structure so grand that it leaves a large number of visitors awestruck with its splendour.
The five minarets stand for the five pillars/tenets of Islam. With magnificent chandeliers and a massive Persian prayer carpet, the Grand Mosque stands on top of the tourist attractions.
The Royal Opera House
A stunning edifice with equally gorgeous interiors, it is a prestigious venue that hosts performances by renowned international artists reflecting Oman’s fine taste for the performing arts. If you take a guided tour, chances are, the tall and stately Shaima will take you around, sprinkling her talk with interesting personal anecdotes.
Bait Al Baranda Museum
It is a small, interactive museum (near Muttrah Souq) housed in a lovely old building with an eclectic collection of exhibits throwing light on Oman’s geology, natural history, important historical events, culture and tradition. Interactive and passive exhibits include old Omani costumes, the maritime trade, and the skeleton of a dinosaur.
This was the place where our ancestors traded their spices and goods in some of its dark and narrow lanes filled to the brim with shops- Al Dhalam (darkness in Arabic) is its other name as sunlight never penetrated here: people needed lamps even during the day to find their way. That was aeons ago. Now the brightly lit, air-conditioned shops are a far cry from the olden days. Shops are filled with Omani silver jewellery, frankincense, perfume oils, spices, khanjars (daggers), embroidered Kummahs (caps worn by men), Turkish glass lamps etc. If you bargain, you will strike a fabulous deal!
Omani Food: Hearty and Healthy
The ubiquitous dates and kahwa (Arabic coffee) welcome you wherever you go as Omanis believe in warm hospitality.
Lemon Nona is a popular soft drink, made of lemon juice, crushed mint leaves and sugar syrup: cools the system in the hot Omani weather and quenches thirst. It is high on calories because of the liberal sugar content, but if you have it sans the sugar it tastes like an unpalatable health drink, though good for detox.
Most Omani dishes tend to contain a rich mixture of spices, herbs, and marinades. Some of these delicacies feature prominently in most meals:
Mutton marinated with Tabzirah (traditional spices mixed in date vinegar), placed into Khsfa (basket) and wrapped in banana or moringa tree leaves, and then placed in the Tannour (tandoor), where it is slowly cooked over hot embers underground. Served with rice or bread, the meat just melts in your mouth.
Spiced rice cooked with fresh vegetable broth and topped with oven-roasted chicken.
A traditional rice dish cooked in meat broth with Sulaiman spices.
This Emirati delicacy is omnipresent in the entire Arab region. Balls made of flour and milk powder, deep- fried into a golden hue and dunked in sugar syrup: they look deceptively like our gulab jamuns but they are not as soft or delicious. Still, they have their own much-loved crunchy taste.
Also called Makbus, the dish consists of rice, usually basmati, vegetables, meat or chicken and a mix of spices. The technique adopted in cooking the Kabsa is all the ingredients are pressed into one pot and cooked.
Out of the large variety of bread available in Oman, the making of Rakhal flatbread is fascinating to watch. Women smear sticky batter on huge, circular pans with their bare hands and spread it like dosa and flip effortlessly. Made with just three simple ingredients like wheat flour, water and salt, the final product is lacy thin and delicate.
If you have not tasted or not bought a packet of Omani Halwa, (the Sultan of all Arabian sweets) to take back home, people will never believe that you had been to Oman!